Levuka makes a memorable first impression. Arriving by sea,  colourful storefronts and historic buildings are framed by the forested slopes of an extinct volcano rising sharply behind the township.

Levuka, as Fiji’s first capital (1874-1882), is a town of many firsts. It is a significant cultural world heritage site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and while the benefits of this designation are yet to come to fruition, for a long weekend it provides visitors with a chance to take it slow and soak up some history alongside some fresh sea air.

While a Heritage Bill to provide for the domestic application of the World Heritage Convention is still to make its way through parliament—with calls from townspeople for more consultation—UNESCO recognises Levuka as: “A rare example of a late colonial port town that was influenced in its development by the indigenous community which continued to outnumber the European settlers. 

“Thus the town, an outstanding example of late 19th century Pacific port settlements, reflects the integration of local building traditions by a supreme naval power, leading to the emergence of a unique landscape.”

Fijian writer Mary Rokonadravu, who spent 12 years schooling in Levuka, has described it as “a crash course in the history of Fiji, a time capsule, a microcosm of almost 200 years of contact history.

“As a writer, my stories and style of telling come from this beach town that is a tapestry of human migration, dispossession, loss, resilience, and hope.

“To visit Levuka is to encounter art and history.”

Levuka was declared a sister town to Hawaii’s Lahaina, which was so tragically razed by fire recently. Both towns were ports for whaling ships on their way to New Zealand in the 1800s. The devastation of that town is a stark reminder of the transience of history and the vulnerability of our heritage. 

Here are some tips for a weekend in the town.

Where to stay

Levuka Homestay: Hosts John and Marilyn offer simply decorated but lovely rooms in a lush garden. Marilyn’s breakfasts are legendary for their generosity and variety. Don’t plan for a heavy lunch, this multi-course feast and its home-made elements (from jams to muesli, baked goods to cooked savoury elements) will keep you going most of the day.


Sailors Home: This historic cottage was build in 1860 and is one of Levuka’s oldest private homes. It is perfect for family groups. Cross the road to take a dip in Boat Harbour with the locals.

The Sailors Home- Levuka Ovalau Fiji

New Mavida Lodge: Favoured by Fijians travelling for business and larger groups, this property has been operating for many years and is located on Beach Road. Many local dignatories have stayed at the lodge, which offers nine rooms, two Ocean View rooms, seven Garden View rooms and a dormitory. Breakfast is provided.

Call: +679 733363/+679 8755410

The Royal Hotel: Visit the South Pacific’s oldest continuously-run  hotel. While we think the villas are more comfortable than the rooms in the main building, it is worth visiting the main building for a drink to take in the atmosphere. The hotel was once favoured by sailors, who could keep a watchful eye on their ships anchored at  harbour, and a widow’s watch on the hotel’s roof enabled seafarers to assess sea conditions. 


The Old Capital Inn: a newly renovated, budget option for families or group of friends, this cottage can sleep eight in bunk beds. Use of kayaks is included in the room rate.

Old Capital Inn

What to do

Levuka Museum and Community Centre in the old Morris Hedstrom and Co storehouse is worth your time. Private tours are available, or you can just work your way through the Museum in your own time. The collection spans the town’s colonial and more recent history, which a number of interesting items on display. The building also houses the Levuka library. [Editor’s note: The Museum and Community Centre are currently closed for renovation].

Tour town. Book a local guide through the Community Centre to take you to some of the town’s most significant sites, including the Levuka Town Hall, Sacred Heart Church, Levuka Public School (which celebrates its 145th anniversary in 2024) and the Masonic Lodge, which was burnt down in 2000- a nursery of plants now thrives on the site, sheltered by the ruined lodge’s concrete walks.

 Guides can also take you on hikes to Lovoni village, if you are keen to see this iTaukei historical site.

Visit Cawaci, home of the Bishop’s Tomb and St John’s College. 

Recently restored, the Bishop’s Tomb is the final resting place of Fiji’s first Catholic Bishop and his successor. The tomb is built in classic Gothic Revivalist architectural style and looks over the ocean. St John’s College has a storied history, and attracts students from across the region.

Celebrate Fiji Day:  If you are in town for Fiji Day (October 10), you can witness the traditional re-enactment of the Deed of Cession at Nasova, the original seat of Government. After this re-enactment, on the spot where 13 Fijian chiefs ceded Fiji to Britan, march into town with the crowd to watch the raising of the Fiji flag at Nasau Park.  Even if you miss the Fiji Day holiday, you can see the cession stone laid at the site, and two similar stones marking Prince Charles’ visit to Fiji. Across the road from this site is Nasova House, initially the main government building of the Cakobau government (1973-74) and then the residents of Fiji’s first British Governor. 

Climb the 199 stairs. Take a slow climb up the 199 steps of Mission Hill and be rewarded by views over Levuka and far to sea. You’ll pass some of the town’s lovely old homes, schools and other significant structures.

Catch a rugby match: As with anywhere in Fiji, you don’t have to go far to see an impromptu rugby match, but if you are super keen to see the provincial talent, the Yalovata Lomaiviti 7s are on January 11-13, 2024 in Levuka.

Take in the sea breeze: Simply stroll or sit by the sea wall and watch the foot and boat traffic. 

Marketing: While the new Levuka market is being built, vendors continue to sell their wares from tents on Beach Road. Levuka also recently saw the launch of the First Capital monthly market day, held on the first Saturday of each month. Levuka also has some great old-school shops. 

Where to eat

The famous Kinman may have taken his chef’s knife to Vanua Levu, but the new operators of the Naova’Ke Uptown Restaurant still has the best view, and some of the tastiest food in town.

Getting there

Several shipping companies service Ovalau.

Gounder Shipping Limited

Venue Shipping

Captain Cook Cruises also stops in Levuka. Its luxury expedition small ship MS Caledonian Sky visits -Levuka as part of its Remote North tour.

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